When Newcastle United soccer star Santiago Munez is offered a spot with Real Madrid, he accepts, but the move - accompanied by big money and fame - tests his ties and loyalties to family, friends and business acquaintances.
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Santiago's father, Hernan Munez, smuggled his penniless Mexican family over the US border to seek a better, albeit modest future in L.A. Eldest son Santiago dreams of more, like native Angelinos, then joining Hernan's gardening firm. His change arrives when a British ex-pro spots him as an exceptional soccer natural and promises he can arrange a real British talent scout to check him out. Although that falls trough and dad forbids it, Santiago accepts grandma's savings to try out with English premier league club Newcastle. Despite his asthma, he gets in and befriends the freshly transferred, desperately undisciplined bad boy star scorer, party animal Gavin Harris, who becomes his bothersome house-mate, a recipe for trouble and yet each's salvation. Written by
I think we would all likely agree the "rags to riches" story has been done to death by Hollywood. But, when someone comes along and gets it right the results can be truly excellent. Perhaps the best know of this genre is original "Rocky" movie. "Goal - the dream begins" gets it right, even though it is loaded with all the clichés that generally accustom this kind of movie. "Goal" has the whole recipe here - the unknown with the heart of gold, a unique and virtuosic talent, from a downtrodden and hopeless setting, the brooding and unsupportive parent who refuses to accept his child's potential, the doting grandparent who can see the potential that lies within our hero, the outsider who promises a way to fame and fortune and so on... But, like the first few "Rocky" movies, this one delivers without falling into the usual schmaltzy pitfalls.
Kuno Becker is very well cast as promising young player Santiago Munez. He is earnest, honest, and gives off that glow of burning desire to be the best. My only knock is that he doesn't quite physically look the part at times. When they line him up with real professionals he looks a touch slight and skinny, not quite boasting the musleclature of a professional athlete. The supporting cast works out well, too. No real complaints to offer as everyone seems to be a very good fit. Alessandro Nivola's dialect could use a spot of work, but no one outside of the UK will really pick up on this. I very much liked Marcel Irues as Newcastle United's Manager. He seemed to be a totally natural fit for the role and is a shoe in for the lead if someone ever decides to make the "Aime Jacquet story".
Where this movie really takes off is on the pitch, whether its a park in LA, the training ground in Newcastle, or St. James Park, the home of Newcastle United. The soccer scenes are exceptionally well done and look realistic. Real players feature prominently all over film, both on and off the pitch, and not just in walk on cameos, ie "Bend it like Beckham". The action is convincing, the tackles are crunching, and the goals are authentic and not the usual over the top spectacle (anyone remember Pele's winner from "Victory"?) Becker fits in well with the action scenes, though it's odd how you never really see all of Becker on the ball and usually just the waist up, kind of like they found some else to do all the little flicks and stepovers...
And for all those who say "it can't happen", I beg to differ. This movie is not fantasy. In fact, they could have made a biopic about a young Calgarian from Western Canada who somehow manages to make Bayern Munich, works his way up through the reserves, and in his premier season with the senior side wins the league and European Cup, makes the England side for World Cup 2002, and returns again to be the best England player in World Cup 2006! Maybe someday someone out there will make the "Owen Hargreaves story".
All in all, great stuff and I'm already looking forward to Goal 2 & 3.
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